Why We Procrastinate

Do you ever have a list of jobs to do and find yourself doing the less-important ones first?  I know I do.  So I was relieved to read there is a scientific explanation — the urgency effect.

According to the article “Why Your Brain Tricks You Into Doing Less Important Tasks” by Tim Herrera, “Our brains tend to prioritize immediate satisfaction over long-term rewards …. But a study from February found that subjects were more likely to perform smaller-but-urgent tasks that had a deadline than they were to perform more important tasks without one.  This was true even if the outcome of the smaller task was objectively worse than that of the larger one.”

So even though a large task is less urgent but more important, our brain wants us to choose a smaller but more-urgent task.  Hence the urgency effect.

What to do?  In a word, prioritize.  You need a method of separating the urgent from non-urgent, and the important from not-important.  One good way is the four-box method General Eisenhower used, which I wrote about on July 15, 2018 (http://www.bobwelbaum-author.com/be-like-eisenhower/).  If you have trouble deciding what’s really important, it’s time to have a talk with yourself about goals.  And if the high-priority tasks seem too daunting, try splitting them up into more-manageable bites.

As long as you are aware that, thanks to the urgency effect, your brain’s intuitive priorities may not be the best way to reach your goals.

The complete article is at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/09/smarter-living/eisenhower-box-productivity-tips.html?.


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